Region 8 food pantry sees increase of those in need

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

TRUMANN, AR (KAIT) – Officials with the Trumann Food Pantry said Wednesday a record number of people requested food assistance during the two hour period the facility was open. The food bank is open each Wednesday and Saturday from ten in the morning to noon. Wednesday, 67 families got several hundred pounds of food.

"Cakes, pies, just anything that we have available and we always try to keep some kind of staple protein, some type of bean product just in case the meat product runs low, but we've been very fortunate," said Mayor Sheila Walters, who co-founded the facility. "We also have financial support from our churches in town so we do buy a portion of the groceries that we offer."

Walters said the pantry operates through donations by banks, churches and local businesses. She said anyone with a zip code of 72472 qualifies for assistance, although the pantry prefers the need be an emergency.

"We try to offer at least a two to three day supply of groceries to help someone. A lot of our individuals do have food stamps but because of the economic times right now, going to the grocery store, you can spend those food stamps quickly," said Walters. "We care about the citizens in Trumann and we want to do anything we can to make life a little easier for them. We don't want a child to have to worry that they don't have something to eat in the morning."

Jeanne Johnson, who organizes the pantry, said 254 families were served in March when the pantry opened. 287 families were served in April.

"We felt like in the long run we could have as many as 600 families a month coming through here," said Johnson.

The first day the pantry opened, 36 families asked for assistance.

"Arkansas is the second highest state in the nation for food insecurities and the area that we're in, Trumann, is actually 27.5%," said Johnson. "When you consider that Arkansas is the second highest state, you can see we're at deep poverty levels."

Johnson said the Trumann Food Bank receives canned foods from the NEA Food Bank in Jonesboro. All meat products are purchased through monetary donations.

"If our quantities run out, we may have to have stricter guidelines but at first, we wanted to make sure everyone knew it was available and anyone. I could go get food if I needed it," said Walters. "We try not to spend every dime we have. We try to put a little bit back for hard times."

Walters said the program is designed to offer struggling families a cheaper alternative to large grocery bills.

"You have to bring each time to verify that those are the members of your household," said Walters.

Walters said the food pantry is always seeking donations. For more information, contact the Trumann City Hall at 483-5355.

©2010 KAIT All rights reserved.